Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Arsenal can march to the final as Wenger drafts in experience for Spurs
By 1970’s Gooner
Let’s face it; in the first semi final at the Emirates we didn’t play well at all and we didn’t deserve to still go into tonight’s second leg at White Hart Lane with a real chance of reaching the final.
Arsene Wenger for reasons of prudence coupled with a desire to blood his youngsters early in at the deep end, fielded a team that lacked the necessary experience and nous to overcome a resolute and avenge seeking Spurs first team.
We nearly paid the price. But that is usually a good price to pay if the youngsters learn a lesson that will stand them in good stead in the near future when they will be called to take up arms against the big boys.
And this is a theme that is recurrent in all of Wenger’s teams over the years. A lot of his players begin young, inexperienced but fantastically skillful and they end up maturing into champions.
This theme was clearly in evidence last night at Birmingham where the young guns were pitted against opponents that you would classify as men in football yearspeak.
Birmingham had among others Forsell, Parnaby, Gary McSheffrey, De Ridder plus Colin Doyle in goal who all added a solid first-team edge in their ranks. But still the young boys of Arsenal gave them a run for their money and were on level terms until reduced to 10 men.
By fortune more than design Wenger’s hand is being forced to select some more experienced first teamers for tonight’s clash.
This is because Senderos who would have started along with Hoyte in central defence has a broken nose and Gallas the only other injury free (or ANC free) center back would surely have been protected for the more important contests that lie ahead.
This is just as well because one of the more glaring weaknesses that was evident during the first leg was the central defensive partnership of Djourou and Senderos.
They were very square and did not really work as a pair. Berbatov and Keane run them rugged with Berbatov dropping deep to receive the ball and with his trickery dictate play.
If Gallas had been in the line up things would have been a lot different in defence. He would have brought organisation, positional awareness and leadership.
This is what he will bring tonight.
As will Sagna who may have to play at right back as Hoyte looks like been drafted in the middle of the defence.
The other weakness that was apparent during the first leg also looks like being mitigated tonight.
Robin Van Pesie was not match fit and did not contribute much. At least for tonight Bendtner may be paired with Eduardo or with Walcott.
We would all probably prefer Eduardo but I think that Walcott with his pace will be more of a threat to the Spurs defence as he proved in the first leg by surging through the middle to score the equaliser. Eduardo may be kept on the bench for protection and also to be brought on if needed.
The absence of Eboue to the ANC is also, in an indirect way, forcing Wenger’s hand as it limits the options available for the wide midfield positions. By playing Walcott in the middle there is a slot available for either Hleb or Rosicky. Diaby will probably tale up the other slot on the left and be detailed to cover for Traore when he bombs forward.
The inclusion of another first team player in the line up such as Hleb will be very useful by adding experience and he will also be able to help Denilson organize play. I would for this reason choose him over Rosicky.
According to the above description the team line up for tonight may look like this:
Sagna Hoyte Gallas Traore
Hleb Denilson Gilberto Diaby
The bench will, according to Wenger, contain more first teamers. These could be among others Fabregas, Eduardo and Rosicky.
The starting eleven contain youth and experience in good proportions something that was clearly missing during the first leg.
Sometimes you play well because the opponents allowed you to; and this is what I believe happened during the first leg at the Emirates. This is unlikely to be repeated for this game. If the Spuds couldn’t beat us then I doubt it if they could do it tonight.
Prediction: Away win 1-3
SQUAD TO "TRAVEL" TO WHITE HART LANE ANNOUNCED BY ARSENAL
2 Abou DIABY
3 Bacary SAGNA
4 Cesc FABREGAS
10 William GALLAS
13 Alexander HLEB
16 Mathieu FLAMINI
21 Lukasz FABIANSKI (GK)
25 Emmanuel ADEBAYOR
26 Nicklas BENDTNER
30 Armand TRAORE
31 Justin HOYTE
32 Theo WALCOTT
40 Vito MANNONE (GK)